California marijuana recall threatens state cannabis industry

Marijuana plant. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Jennifer Martin

Dec. 25 (UPI) — Thousands of pounds of marijuana products were recalled last week in California nearly a month after a lab was caught falsifying pesticide test reports, threatening what some had thought would become the nation’s most promising state for the cannabis business.

But the recall last week by the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control for 29 businesses that had products tested at Sacramento-based Sequoia Analytical Labs proved to be another stumble out of the gate for California marijuana.

Under California law, all consumable marijuana products for sale must be tested and analyzed for 66 known pesticides. Agents found Sequoia’s lab director Marc Foster had been faking reports since July about testing for 22 of the pesticides and was fired, KTVU reported.

“Any cannabis goods from these batches, returned by consumers to the retailer, must be destroyed,” the bureau said in a letter to the businesses announcing the recall covering 848 batches tested by Sequoia, the Marijuana Business Daily reported.

“Any cannabis goods returned from a retailer’s inventory or remaining in your inventory may be destroyed, or may be re-sampled and re-tested after obtaining approval from the bureau. Any cannabis goods from these batches may not be released to a retailer without re-sampling and re-testing,” the letter continued.

Hezekiah Allen, the chairman of Emerald Grown, a co-op made up of about 100 licensed growers mostly north of San Francisco, said that merchants and marijuana farmers have already been burdened by taxes, licenses and a long string of compliances this year before the costly recall, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“[The recall is] yet another cut in the death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts scenario that is playing out for so many producers in the state,” Allen said. “The regulated market will only thrive when producers and consumers have confidence in the labs. Right now that confidence is something we don’t have.”

Steven Dutra, the general manager of Sequoia, said he was “blindsided” by the reports against the lab.

“They told us they saw an irregularity in the reports being submitted,” Dutra said. “We were told by our lab director that all these new pesticides had been set up and that all was going well with that. Of course, we found out that was not the case.”

Before the Sequoia case, Berkeley’s Steep Hill Labs was suspended for 10 weeks earlier this year after it failed to meet state testing protocols for two pesticides. Some industry insiders have said that they don’t believe the laboratories are even capable of testing cannabis to the precision required by regulators.

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